Workaway is a platform in which travelers and hosts can meet up for mutually positive experiences. Hosts let travelers stay for free and provide room and board in exchange for a predetermined amount of work (usually 4-5 hours per day). There are hundreds of opportunities across the world, from farming to childcare, construction and housework. You can work on a horse farm in northern Scandinavia, be an exercise buddy in Chicago or as we did, help out at a home in the hinterland of Australia.
We got introduced to our tasks with a caveat on Australian wildlife safety: if you get bitten by a poisonous snake, then here are some tension bandages that you wrap around to prevent the poison from getting to the rest of your body. Not to worry though, the 3m long pythons will just wrap around you, but aren’t poisonous. They go for the chickens and they keep the poisonous brown snakes away, for the most part. After our first aid lesson and directions to the nearest hospital, we got started with our first task: weeding the gardens. We made sure to make a lot of noise rustling around to scare out any critters. An uneventful task it turned out to be and we jumped in the pool to cool off before sitting down to a delicious vegetarian dinner with our hosts.
Our hosts were an Australian and his Dutch/Aussie wife who transported their 100 year old wood home to the hinterlands near Byron Bay over 35 years ago. Since then, they have created a little oasis with a pool, large trees and a chicken coop. They have traveled all over the world and have a special fondness for Tibet, and Northern India, where their hobby is to track and photograph snow leopards. Avid trekkers, their holidays involve weeks of walking treacherous terrain in the most remote areas in the world. Needless to say, they were very interesting dinner conversationalists. Their unique personalities were reflected in their home’s decor and style. Exotic, warm and welcoming; staying there was very special.
For three days, we spent the majority of our working time collecting palm fronds (dead palm leaves) which have ridiculously tough end pieces. The leather like ends won’t even go through the wood chipper. We snipped them off to be burned at a later date, while the rest of the palm goes into the chipper. The huge pile of palm fronds gets diminished into a small pile of mulch, which the chickens eye with temptation, hoping to get one of the insects buried beneath. We let them out to peck furiously at the ground, dispersing the pile in search of the juiciest millipede. They were amusing to watch, and they thankfully ate the spiders the size of their heads before they had a chance to crawl on us.
Our days were packed full and the experience left us a little exhausted, as we would do hikes and activities (including scuba diving with sharks!) in the afternoon after our yard work. We ate the best we had the whole trip, with delicious vegetarian food every night. We got a little homesick with all of the Dutch influence and coziness of the home, including their adorable, cuddly, Australian terriers.
In the end it gave us a feel of living in rural Australia and the upkeep that comes with it. A beautiful place, but there’s no way I could wrestle a python out of the chicken coop. Simply not Aussie enough for that task.